The Causes Behind Toe Fracture

Symptoms and diagnosis for Toe Fracture
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By Orthopaedic and Neurology Clinic

Toe Fracture Info

What is define by a Toe Fracture?

Fractures of the toes and forefoot are quite common. Fractures can result from a direct blow to the foot — such as accidentally kicking something hard or dropping a heavy object on your toes. They can also result from the overuse and repetitive stress that comes with participating in high-impact sports like running, football, and basketball.

Although fracturing a bone in your toe or forefoot can be quite painful, it rarely requires surgery. In most cases, a fracture will heal with rest and a change in activities.

On the other hand, if a broken toe is left untreated, it can lead to problems that may affect your ability to walk and run. A poorly treated broken toe may also leave you in a lot of foot pain.

What are some concerns of a Toe Fracture?

Broken toes usually result from some form of trauma or injury to the foot or toe. Injuries such as stubbing a toe or dropping a heavy object on a toe may cause a fracture. Sometimes, a broken toe may result from prolonged repetitive movements, as in certain sports activities. This is called a stress fracture.

Broken Toe Symptoms

  • After the injury, pain, swelling, or stiffness can occur. Bruising of the skin around the toe may also be noticeable. The toe may not look normal, and it may even look bent or deformed if the broken bone is out of place. It may be difficult to walk because of the pain, especially if the big toe is fractured.
  • Shoes may be painful to wear or feel too tight.
  • Some other problems may develop in addition to, or as a result of, the fracture. These complications can occur right away after the injury (minutes to days), or can happen much later (weeks to years).
  • Immediate complications
    • Nail injury: A collection of blood may develop underneath the toenail called a subungual hematoma. If it is large, it may have to be drained. To drain a subungual hematoma our doctor will make a small hole in the toenail to drain the blood out. If the hematoma is very large or painful, the entire toenail may need to be removed.
    • Open fracture: Rarely, the broken bone in a toe fracture may stick out through the skin. This is called an open or compound fracture. Careful cleansing of the wound and possibly antibiotic medication will be needed to prevent the bone from becoming infected. Sometimes surgery may even be necessary.
  • Delayed complications
    • After the toe fracture heals, the person may still be left with arthritis, pain, stiffness, or even a deformity.
    • Sometimes, the fractured bone will not heal completely (called a nonunion), or will heal improperly (called a malunion). Although it’s rare, surgery may be necessary to fix this problem

“Although some people believe that they cannot do anything about a broken toe, this is not always the case. In fact, health professionals should evaluate most toe fractures. Untreated broken toes can lead to painful problems later.”

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What types of diagnosis?

Our Specialist may ask and conduct one or more of the following tests to determine your toe fracture:

    • History of symptoms. To diagnose toe fracture, our doctor will take a history to find out how your foot was injured and ask about your symptoms. He will then examine your foot and may compare it to the foot on the opposite side.
    • Physical examination. During the examination, our doctor will look for:
      • Swelling
      • Tenderness over the fracture site
      • Bruising or discoloration — your foot may be red or ecchymotic (“black and blue”)
      • Deformity
      • Skin abrasions or open wounds
      • Loss of sensation—an indication of nerve injury
    • X-rays. X-rays provide images of dense structures, such as bone. An X-ray can usually be done in your doctor’s office.

      Most fractures can be seen on a routine X-ray. A stress fracture, however, may start as a tiny crack in the bone and may not be visible on a first X-ray.

      In many cases, a stress fracture cannot be seen until several weeks later when it has actually started to heal and a type of healing bone called callus appears around the fracture site.

    • MRI. If our Specialist suspects a stress fracture but cannot see it on an X-ray, they may recommend an MRI scan.

      More sensitive than an X-ray, an MRI can detect changes in the bone that may indicate a fracture. Unlike an X-ray, there is no radiation with an MRI. 

Possible treatment for Toe Fracture?

Typical treatment for a broken toe is called “buddy taping.” This involves taking the broken toe and carefully securing it to the toe next to it with medical tape. Usually, a gauze pad is placed between the toes to prevent skin irritation.

The non-broken toe is basically used as a splint to help keep the broken toe from moving too much. By taping the broken toe to its neighbor, it gives the injured toe the support it needs to begin healing.

Surgery and additional treatment options

More serious breaks may require additional treatment. If you have bone fragments in the toe that need to heal, taping may not be enough.

You may be advised to wear a walking cast. This helps keep the injured toe stable while also giving your foot enough support to reduce some of the pain you may have while walking.

In very serious cases, surgery may be necessary to reset the broken bone or bones. Our surgeon can sometimes put a pin or a screw into the bone to help it heal properly. These pieces of hardware will remain in the toe permanently.

Early consultation will best prevent any issues from deteriorate. Our team of specialists can help you get back on your feet.

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